'Twas the night before Christmas and I'm full as a tick and mindful of how wonderful my life is.
It could be because of the lovely, lemony Trouillard Brut Champagne that kicked off the afternoon, loosening tongues and setting the tone for merry this and happy that (coincidentally also the words on the red bev naps under the bubbly).
Besides the usual Christmas albums - Mathis, Conniff, Sinatra - I tried to slip in something different, namely "Contemporary Gospel Christmas volume 9" and it went over like a lead balloon. The only guests who could stand it were around in the '80s listening to the Quiet Storm. So, yes, I liked it, but it was stopped mid-disc.
Lesson here: you just can't mess with some people's holiday audio.
Supper was served early, meaning not long after sunset, and was pulled together with contributions from various sources. The real cooking talent supplied the killer pickle-brined fried chicken while I made mashed potatoes and drop biscuits, about the easiest of all southern breads.
Say what you will about their simplicity (I did learn to make them my first year of Home Ec.), but the butter melts just as drippingly well inside them as in cut biscuits.
The star of the salad was the shiitake mushrooms supplied by my bulb savior Todd, who had generously also given me his favorite recipe for them ( a bath of soy sauce and olive oil followed by 20 minutes in the oven), promising that they'd come out tasting like bacon. Not quite, but plenty delicious, especially next to the butter and brown sugar-baked pecans that also peppered the spring mix of greens.
Like the potatoes and salad, the dinner wine was organic. Rosy pink Lumos Chiquita Pinot Noir Rose drank as beautifully as it looked, hinting at strawberries and something citrusy and proving my theory that Rose is a year round drink. Some would say that it didn't hurt that it was close to 70 degrees today.
Dessert was a turkey platter of Christmas cookies and everyone had a different favorite from the array of peanut butter with dark chocolate, iced sugar cookies, pressed butter cookies and, for the first time, chocolate butter cookies, a radical departure for the traditionalists in the group.
I knew better than to waste the precious little bit of room left in my belly on mere cookies since the next stop was the Byrd theater for the annual viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life," which always involves buttered popcorn and Milk Duds.
The line for tickets was already around Cary Street and winding down Sheppard Street in the fog when we arrived, but it soon moved quickly and compared to past years of standing outside in freezing cold weather, it was actually quite pleasant.
Inside, the three concession lines were already doubling over on themselves, but I staked my territory in the farthest one, striking up a conversation with the woman in front of me.
Like me, she's made seeing this film on Christmas Eve at the Byrd part of her holiday tradition and once she found out I was at the 20-year mark, began reminiscing about the days when lines were short and seats readily available.
"Now I'm sorry I told so many people about it," she lamented half-jokingly. But where's the Christmas spirit in that?
All at once two women approached her and shrieks ensued. The duo had come from Alaska and were surprising her in line with their visit. Last year, she'd gone to Alaska to see them and they'd decided to reciprocate without telling her. It was all very sweet.
They agreed to hold my place in line while I made a run for the bathroom, squeezing through the other concession lines to get there. I inched my way behind a guy in line and he acted like I'd goosed him. "Woo-hoo! Come again, please!" he called after me. Christmas lechery, how nice.
My rationale for going to the Byrd for the same movie every year is that it's still able to work its magic every time. I mean, I know George Bailey is going to get his life back and everything will be fine, but watching those scenes where he sees what a hole would have existed if he'd never been born still moves me.
So while I wouldn't leave a hole nearly as big as George Bailey's, I do know my presence would be missed by a few...but an important few.
Just last week, a friend wrote me, "I so miss your upbeat smiling and twinkling eyes."
I won't be going down in history or anything like that, but if there's one thing I've learned from this movie it's that no one is a failure who has friends. I wouldn't have wanted to live any other life than mine.
Although I've never been naked in a hydrangea bush, it's been a very interesting situation every step of the way.